Memories of watching the World Trade Center towers collapse two years ago are still vivid and painful for me. In the 1980s, I worked for an international firm in downtown Los Angeles that also had an office in Tower 2. The news carried stories of employees from my former firm who called loved ones after the first tower was hit. They told family and friends that everything was fine. Several said they had an important meeting in progress and had to keep their priorities straight. Within minutes, they perished with the tower while still in their meeting.
Los Angeles experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake at 7:42 AM on October 1, 1987. I was driving the freeway to the office at the time, and never once thought to return home or even pull off the road. Priorities, you know. I was irritated by the slow, snarled traffic, as I had a meeting and was late. Once parked and in front of 911 Wilshire Blvd, we were told that the partner/manager meeting was vital and must go on. It was almost impossible to mesh all our schedules. Now that we were all there...well, you know. Priorities. The elevators were not functioning, so we climbed twenty-one floors, and we required the support staff to do the same.
Tiles had fallen from the ceiling, furniture and file cabinets had moved, and papers were strewn everywhere. We converged our meeting, barely noticing the chaos. We were focused on our priorities. We met for two hours, and felt the building sway from two aftershocks during the course of the meeting. Unbenownst to us, the Human Resources department announced that anyone who felt in danger was excused for the day. Every employee not in that meeting left the premises. Our meeting was so important, that the sound system had been turned off to avoid unnecessary interruptions. Priorities.
When the meeting ended, we were stunned to discover that we were alone on the twenty-second floor. One indignant partner proclaimed, "Sandbaggers. They're just not committed. Probably out shopping right now." I, and we, worked in our offices for several more hours before knocking off early about 3 PM. We had to take care of our priorities before going home.
Today, I can't remember the topic of the meeting.
Memories of watching the World Trade Center towers collapse two years ago are still vivid and painful for me. There, but for the grace of God, go you and me.
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